I am a writer because of libraries, because of their cool, dark recesses during hot and smoggy Pasadena summers, when I would hole up between the stacks and read and read and read until I had punched every hole in my summer-challenge library card and gone onto the next. I am a writer because of the refuge of the library during my awkward adolescence, because of the way the books I found by accident taught me about times and places I had never thought of. I am a writer because of wood floors, and twelve-foot-tall windows that let the light fall down onto books that are sweetly musty and eager to be read. I am a writer because of inter-library loan, which sent hundreds of books to my tiny Wallingford branch while I was researching 500 Great Books by Women. I am a writer because of the quick-information line, which answered all my questions in a way far more satisfying than Google will ever be, because the answers were framed in conversations, and sometimes included questions inside themselves. Which, of course, would lead me back to the library itself. Because in the end, libraries remind us that reading is a communal activity, a conversation between writer and reader, reader and reader, page and eyes.
With the advent of the rainy season, what a comfort to think of curling up by the fireplace with a drowsy cat and a good book. Here are recommendations from the Friends’ October board meeting. You can click on the links below to get to the SPL site to reserve a copy of these books.
Emperors of the Ice : a True Story of Disaster and Survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13, by Richard Farr. Farr’s debut novel has been named winner of the 2009 Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award (part of the annual Washington State Books Awards) in the category of Books for Middle Grades and Young Adults (10-18 year old readers), although our board member believes it will appeal to adults as well. This story of the ill-fated Antarctic journey led by Robert Scott to find the South Pole is told from the viewpoint of Apsley Cherry-Garrard: “A bad navigator, inexperienced with dogs, blind as a bat, I was not the best man for the job, but I was the man available for the job.”
Pictures at an Exhibition, by Sara Houghteling. This novel, set in Paris, is about a Jewish family dealing with the Nazis’ looting of French art masterpieces during World War II, including the destruction of the family’s art gallery. The son returns after the war to try to recover the family’s masterpieces and in the process learns about family secrets and the many losses caused by the war.
The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister. Our board member first heard about this book through the Phinney Neighborhood Association blog, and characterizes it as enjoyable escapist fiction, with wonderful descriptions of cooking. The characters in the novel all attend a weekly cooking class together, lead by a chef who doesn’t believe in using recipes. We learn about what has motivated each student to attend, what they each wrestle with, and how their cooking and their lives are transformed by learning to listen to their senses. Per the PNA blog entry, the author is a PNA member and volunteer instructor in the PNA education program.
Labor Day, by Joyce Maynard. According to Carol Haggas’ review in Booklist, “Stranger danger” is a concept unfamiliar to 13-year-old Henry, who befriends an injured man during one of his and his agoraphobic mother’s rare shopping excursions in town—with disastrous results for all. . . . Told from Henry’s point of view, Maynard’s inventive coming-of-age tale indelibly captures the anxiety and confusion inherent in adolescence, while the addition of a menacing element of suspense makes this emotionally fraught journey that much more harrowing.” City Librarian Susan Hildreth confessed that this was the first book she’s read in a while that made her think “I wonder what Nancy Pearl thinks of this book?” She checked in with Nancy, who hasn’t finished reading it yet, so stay tuned for Nancy’s verdict . . . . or read it yourself and let us know what you think!